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Publication - Guidance

Early learning, childcare and out of school care services: design guidance

Published: 30 Jun 2017
Part of:
Children and families, Education
ISBN:
9781788510127

Guidance on good design for supporting the delivery of high quality early learning, childcare and out of school care services.

101 page PDF

6.8MB

101 page PDF

6.8MB

Contents
Early learning, childcare and out of school care services: design guidance
Section One: Case Studies

101 page PDF

6.8MB

Section One: Case Studies

Use of existing assets (existing facilities/ buildings)

Cosmic Coppers at Merrylee,
Glasgow

Jaybees Childcare,
Lockerbie

Enchanted Forest,
Robroyston, Glasgow

Kilcoy Kindergarten,
Kilcoy, Muir of Ord

Tweedbank Early Learners,
Galashiels

Sjötorget Kindergarten,
Stockholm, Sweden

Extension to existing accommodation

The International School Aberdeen ( ISA) Nursery,
Aberdeen

Elie Street Nursery,
Glasgow

Use of outdoor space

Craigentinny Nursery Class and Ferryhill Nursery Class,
Edinburgh

Kirtonholme at Canniesburn,
Bearsden, East Dunbartonshire

Use of mezzanine areas

Muirkirk Early Childhood Centre,
Cumnock

New builds

Hobsonville Point Early Learning Centre,
Auckland, New Zealand

KM Kindergarten and Nursery,
Japan

Montpelier Community Nursery,
London Borough of Camden, London

Use of modular builds

Cairns Early Childhood Centre Auchinleck Early Childhood Centre and Lainshaw Early Childhood Centre,
East Ayrshire

Use of off-site construction

Lynburn Primary School Nursery,
Dunfermline, Fife

Cosmic Coppers at Merrylee, Glasgow
Provider - Cosmic Coppers Childcare Limited

Key Aspects

  • Good use of existing assets to increase capacity
  • Direct access to outdoor space
  • Innovative use of space
  • Different size rooms where children can play and learn on their own, in small or large groups

Exterior prior to renovation
Exterior prior to renovation

The village square leading to the shops offering different experiences
The village square leading to the shops offering different experiences

Direct access to outdoor space
Direct access to outdoor space

Description of service

Cosmic Coppers at Merrylee is set within a refurbished car showroom and is based over two units within the same campus. This unit shows how an existing building can be transformed into an innovative early learning and childcare environment. The environment for the children provides a village square, smaller rooms designed as shops and direct access to outdoor space. The layout of the environment promotes independence and encourages children to be responsible for their own learning. They can choose where they want to play, whether they want to be on their own or with small or larger groups. Easy access to the outdoor space enables children to be involved in outdoor activities which positively impacts on their health, wellbeing, learning and development.

“We quickly identified the need for providing flexible spaces for the children to play in but also wanted open social areas for kids to mingle which opened up seamlessly to an outside play space. This project has revolutionised our attitude on space and how it can be utilised to achieve our goal of learning and socialising through play.”

Ross Keenan, director, Cosmic Coppers Childcare Limited.

Jaybees Childcare - Lockerbie
Provider - Jaybees (Childcare) Limited

Key Aspects

  • Increased capacity by renovating an adjacent building
  • Direct access to outdoor space
  • Corridor to link both buildings
  • Sheltered outdoor area

Original accommodation links to renovated workshop
Original accommodation links to renovated workshop

Corridor linking both buildings
Corridor linking both buildings

Covered outdoor space
Covered outdoor space

Description of service

The original accommodation was purpose built to provide an early learning and childcare service. Due to a demand for places the provider renovated an adjacent building, added a link corridor to join both buildings and increased the number of children. The outdoor space has a sheltered area enabling children to benefit from being outdoors in all weather conditions throughout the year.

“The development of the adjacent building, adding a link corridor between the two buildings, was designed with outdoor learning at the heart and an aim to provide a natural yet stimulating environment for children accessing Early Learning and Childcare. Children have free flow to the outdoors which includes a covered area so that the weather is not a deterrent. This in turn has increased the number of children who can attend. With an environment that provides enriching experiences for children both indoors and outdoors, it supports and encourages positive outcomes for them at each age and stage, allowing them to learn and develop in a nurturing, safe, healthy and invigorating environment.”

Jackie Bell, Manager and Director, Jaybees Childcare

Enchanted Forest - Robroyston, Glasgow
Provider - Enchanted Forest Nursery (Bishopbriggs) Ltd.

Key Aspects

  • Good use of existing assets
  • Creative use of wall space
  • Direct access to outdoor space

Setting provided from ground floor of office block
Setting provided from ground floor of office block

Innovative use of wall space

Innovative use of wall space

Outdoor play space
Outdoor play space

Description of service

This setting is based within the ground floor of an office block which has been adapted to provide a good quality early learning and childcare environment. An outdoor space has been creatively designed to provide a variety of natural surfaces for children to explore. The wall space provides interesting space for children to sit and read or just to relax.

“The design of the nursery was done with children in mind with the inclusion of large amounts of natural light, muted natural colours for babies and free-flow outdoor access to the outdoors for toddlers and young children. In addition, our 3-5 children benefit for specially designed book cases which allow children to imaginatively create their own play and learning spaces, as well allowing for cosy spaces where children can read and relax.”

Mariessa Devlin, Enchanted Forest Nursery, Bishopbriggs Ltd.

Kilcoy Kindergarten - Kilcoy, Muir of Ord
Provider - Kilcoy Kindergarten

Key Aspects

  • Good use of existing assets
  • Variety of different outdoor experiences

Setting provided from the ground floor of building which was previously a coffee shop
Setting provided from the ground floor of building which was previously a coffee shop

The fire pit
The fire pit

Outdoor play in a natural environment
Outdoor play in a natural environment

Outdoor space accessed directly from indoor accommodation
Outdoor space accessed directly from indoor accommodation

Description of service

The accommodation was originally built as a tea room and renovated into an early learning and childcare service. The indoor space is at ground level opening to one of the outdoor areas enabling children move from indoors to outdoors, promoting independence. Children have access to a variety of natural outdoor spaces, which promotes health and wellbeing. A large grassy area gives them space to run around, prompting physical activity. The 'forest classrooms' provides opportunities for play and learning in an entirely natural environment. The provider, parents and children developed a quarry, adjacent to the setting, into a play park providing additional outdoor opportunities.

“The covered area just outside this door has a sandpit, a music area and a climbing frame. The children also keep their wellies and suits here. We can play here no matter how rainy or snowy it gets. The impact this makes on the children is that they become very independent, able to get themselves ready to go outside, when they want to. The back garden is part of a field that has been kindly lent to us by a local farmer. It's a place to run around and the children love to play tip and chase in this area. The bridge is how we get from the decking, where we play on our bikes and scooters, to our role play area and our greenhouse. There is also our insect hotel and lots of info about the birds and creatures the children may come across in the garden.”

Tracy McMorran, Service Manager

Tweedbank Early Learners - Galasheils
Provider - Tweedbank Early Learners Committee

Key Aspects

  • Good use of shared community space
  • Access to outdoor areas

Setting is provided from the community centre which was previously a barn
Setting is provided from the community centre which was previously a barn

Indoor environment
Indoor environment


Outdoor space
Outdoor space

The climbing wall
The climbing wall

Description of service

Tweedbank Early Learners is based within a community centre which was formerly a barn. The setting has a separate entrance from the community centre, designated space indoors and outdoors, including space within the community garden. Working in partnership with the community enables the setting to be provided from an integrated community resource which offers additional service.

“The positive impact on the children's learning and outcomes is that they have complete free flow access to the outdoor environment; they are showing independence through making decisions and dressing themselves appropriately for the weather, and being physically active. The children are highly motivated, they are able to communicate well, explore ideas, assess risks, problem solve and make choices around their learning outside.”

Annmarie Robertson, Service Manager

Sjötorget Kindergarten, Stockholm, Sweden

Key Aspects

  • Good use of existing assets
  • Natural light
  • Indoor space at different levels
  • Interesting use of internal windows

Setting provided from ground floor of residential building, Rotstein Arkitekter
Setting provided from ground floor of residential building, Rotstein Arkitekter

Description of service

This 'kindergarten' is on the ground level of a residential block in Stockholm. The large number of windows provides an abundance of natural light. The internal windows provide an interesting space for children to sit and look out at what is happening in other areas. The use of internal stairs encourages children to be independent and responsible and to safely move between playrooms on both levels. The stairs also provide space for children to sit and rest, and to be with others.

Windows used as a seating area. Rotstein Arkiekter
Windows used as a seating area. Rotstein Arkiekter

Stairs used for reading. Rotstein Arkiekter
Stairs used for reading. Rotstein Arkiekter

The International School Aberdeen ( ISA) Nursery - Aberdeen
Provider - The International School of Aberdeen Educational Trust Limited

Key Aspects

  • Large, natural outdoor space
  • Direct access to outdoor space
  • Good use of internal space to create both large and smaller space
  • Use of circles to create smaller rooms
  • Natural light
  • Good use of glass internally to enhance natural light

Setting provided from ground floor of school
Setting provided from ground floor of school

Large natural outdoor area
Large natural outdoor area

Use of glass to create the 'garden room' increases the amount of natural light
Use of glass to create the 'garden room' increases the amount of natural light

Circular area in middle to create smaller space
Circular area in middle to create smaller space

Description of service

The early learning and childcare setting is based within the International School in Aberdeen. Due to demand of families in the area, an extension to one wing of the accommodation was added to expand the provision for children. Staff, parents and children were fully involved in planning the early learning and childcare space. The children's interest in circles developed into the creation of the glazed semi-circular wall to create the garden room and the circular room (the pod) in the middle of the playroom. As a result of the amount of glass used in this service there is an abundance of natural light. Natural light has a positive effect on the psychological wellbeing of children in terms of mood, security and behaviour.

As part of the extension a very large, natural, outdoor area was developed. Children access this area independently enabling them to make decisions about where they want to be. The outdoor space enables children to have fun and experience a sense of achievement when conquering outdoor challenges. The size and layout of all of the space allows children to be on their own, play with others and to explore and experience the natural environment and to assess risk.

“These distinct spaces, classroom, pod, garden room and outdoor area are used by parents, children and staff for a variety of purposes at different times of the day. The physical environment, in conjunction with educators, enables their needs to be met. The outdoor area features a variety of levels and surfaces, such as grass, bark chips, mud, pebbles, decking and paving stones and allows children to develop their balance and dexterity as they explore the natural environment, navigating steps, hills, tree stumps and trunks. The area not only changes with the seasons, it changes along with children's interests, as they create dens, construction areas, water features and indeed stages from which to perform.

The indoor and outdoor areas are dynamic and respond to the changing needs and interests of the people who use them. This was important to us at the start of the design process and continues to be so, as children, staff and parents play, learn and grow in the space together.”

Andrea Taylor, Manager, ISA.

Elie Street Nursery - Glasgow
Provider - Glasgow City Council

Key Aspects

  • Extension to listed building
  • Direct access to outdoor space
  • Use of partitions to create larger or smaller spaces

Extension added to listed building. Setting provided from ground floor
Extension added to listed building. Setting provided from ground floor

Access to outdoor area from each playroom
Access to outdoor area from each playroom

Use of partitions to create smaller spaces
Use of partitions to create smaller spaces

Description of service

This setting operates from an extension to a primary school which is accommodated in a listed building. The extension provides additional space for the school on the upper levels with the early learning and childcare at ground level. The design of the internal space includes partitions which enable the accommodation to be used flexibly, as one large playroom or smaller rooms. This helps to meet the needs of individual children allowing them to be with a small number of children or to be part of a larger group. Each area has direct access to one section of the outdoor space enabling children easy access to outdoor space and encouraging independence.

“We believe our current environment provides freedom of choice and allows children to make decisions about their own learning. Our outdoor environment offers motivating, exciting, different, relevant and easily accessible activities for all children. We have easy access to our outdoor area via the three areas in the playroom. Children can access the toilets from the playroom enabling children to access them independently”.

Michelle Smith, Manager

Craigentinny Nursery Class and Ferryhill Nursery Class Edinburgh
Provider - City of Edinburgh Council

Key Aspects

  • Use of local outdoor space to increase capacity
  • Accommodation based service incorporating local natural outdoor space
  • Good outdoor opportunities and experiences

Watching the heron by the water
Watching the heron by the water

Outdoor space
Outdoor space

See saw made from natural materials
See saw made from natural materials

Base camp
Base camp

Description of service

City of Edinburgh Council is part of the Scottish Government trials for expansion. Some of the children from Craigentinny Nursery Class and Ferryhill Nursery Class attend the 'forest kindergarten' for part of their early learning and childcare experience. This provides children with the opportunity to experience a traditional early learning and childcare environment with adjacent outdoor space and also benefit from the opportunities and experiences an entirely outdoor based setting offers. Due to the success of the trial, City of Edinburgh Council plan to continue with this which will enable them to expand the number of children attending each setting.

“The outdoor environment offers wonderful year round opportunities for learning; surrounding all aspects of the curriculum. The closeness of nature, the wonder and curiously this brings, provides creative experiences. The children involved in the trail have shown increased self- motivation in their learning, particularly around problem solving. They have formed friendship which extend into other spaces. Their concentration and focus in deep learning is evident. Parental/carer feedback has shown a marked difference in the children's quality of sleep.”

Tracy Shaw, City of Edinburgh Council

Kirtonholme at Canniesburn - Bearsden, East Dunbartonshire
Provider - Charlotte and Edward Kelly Partnership

Key Aspects

  • Indoor/Outdoor setting
  • Direct access to outdoor space

Children can free flow from indoors to outdoors
Children can free flow from indoors to outdoors

The rowing boat filled with sand
The rowing boat filled with sand

Covered area
Covered area

Outdoor space
Outdoor space

Description of service

The Care Inspectorate, alongside the provider, considered the use of and suitability of the outdoor space when registering the setting. The outdoor space provides children with a variety of different natural outdoor experiences and opportunities. The sheltered area allows children and staff to be outdoors in all weather conditions maximising the use of indoor and outdoor play opportunities.

“The playroom has large doors that open onto a sheltered outdoor environment, where children have lots of opportunities to play and learn. The playroom is set up to ensure children have access to outdoors at all times. Most of our outdoor play is on a large scale, the sand is outside in a rowing boat allowing the children varied experiences. The water area is in various zones outside, due to the flexibility available. The children manage the water through an outdoor tap and make their own choices on where they use the water. The nursery has an outdoor stage where children can perform and develop through play, which also allows small and large groups of children to work together. At the nursery we are fortunate to have a large physical area and a natural planting and growing area that children are able to access daily.”

Diahann McKerracher, Manager

Muirkirk Early Childhood Centre, Cumnock
Provider - East Ayrshire Council

Key Aspects

  • Good use of space to create mezzanine level
  • Increased capacity through additional space
  • Two levels with easy access outdoors

Schematics of the building

Impression of the mezzanine area and space at ground level
Impression of the mezzanine area and space at ground level

The upper floor leading to the tree house
The upper floor leading to the tree house

Description of service

Muirkirk Early Childhood Centre is part of a new build primary school. The design of the early learning and childcare setting includes a mezzanine area and treehouse which children can access independently. As children can use both levels, this is reflected in the number of children the setting can accommodate. The height of the mezzanine partition ensures that children cannot climb over it, and the stairs are wide enough to enable children to access the mezzanine safely. A variety of different types of windows allow natural light in. The roof window allows children to look into the sky from the mezzanine, and a two storey window provides a view of the surrounding countryside.

“The mezzanine area will provide a calm, quiet, nurturing environment for children. Our aim is to provide an atmosphere of intimacy to promote a positive sense of self, with opportunities to relax and interact in the chill out zone. Suitable ventilation and roof windows are included in the design. The height of the mezzanine balustrade is suitable to ensure that children cannot climb over it along with wide stairs to enable children to access the mezzanine.”

Janie Allen, Strategic Education Manager (Early Intervention)

Hobsonville Point, Early Learning Centre Auckland, New Zealand

Key Aspects

  • On school site
  • Central area
  • Flexible space
  • Direct access to outdoor space
  • Sustainable

Natural light through use of glass and direct access to outdoor space
Natural light through use of glass and direct access to outdoor space
Photography by Mark Scowen, Intense Photography

Description of service

This setting is based at the local primary school. The design of the building is based on New Zealand's four values: Aspirational, Sustainability, Excellence and 'Hauora' (health/wellbeing), with four sections of the buildings merging to create a central 'heart'. All the rooms flow onto the central space, as does the kitchen, creating a real social heart to the building and representing the organisation's primary value - 'Hauora'.

Spacious indoor environment with flexible space for lunch
Spacious indoor environment with flexible space for lunch
Photography by Mark Scowen, Intense Photography

KM Kindergarten and Nursery, Japan

Key Aspects

  • Outdoor space
  • Direct access to outdoor space
  • Natural light

Photograph - Studio Bauhaus / Ryuji Inoue
Photograph - Studio Bauhaus / Ryuji Inoue


Photograph - Studio Bauhaus / Ryuji Inoue
Photograph - Studio Bauhaus / Ryuji Inoue

Description of service

This was developed from an 'old decrepit kindergarten' located at Izumi city. One of the key areas the design had to capture was to encourage children to take more exercise and physical activity. The building surrounds the middle yard with a ramp where children can climb from the first floor to the roof.

Montpelier Community Nursery, London Borough of Camden, London

Key Aspects

  • Outdoor space
  • Direct access to outdoor space
  • Natural light
  • Low windows
  • Sustainable

Description of service

The setting is planned around a large flexible play space that generously opens out to the external green space. Indoor-outdoor play is central to the design concept and the garden environment is considered central to the children's learning experience. Three strip windows with north-south orientation span the plan diagonally. The orientation of the openings allows the sun to enter the building when it is low to take advantage of solar gain in colder months, while large overhangs block out the sun when required to prevent overheating. The larger north facing roof window brings in an abundance of daylight and facilitates cross ventilation. The service is designed as an energy efficient building in operation and low carbon in construction. A mixed sedum blanket forms the roof finish, contributing to local biodiversity and water retention.

Before …
Before …

After … internal space
After … internal space

Photography by Nick Kane and Daniel Steir

After … external space
After … external space
Photography by Nick Kane and Daniel Steir

Cairns Early Childhood Centre Auchinleck Early Childhood Centre and Lainshaw Early Childhood Centre - East Ayrshire
Provider - East Ayrshire Council

Key Aspects

  • Modular build
  • Part of primary school
  • Direct access to outdoor space

Modular build
Modular build

Natural light and direct access to outdoor play area
Natural light and direct access to outdoor play area

Indoor environment
Indoor environment

Outdoor space

Outdoor space

Description of service

All three early learning and childcare settings are part of a primary school. Pods have been fitted to extend the age range to include two year olds. The pods are the same design allowing this to be replicated in other settings, where appropriate. The main features of the design include full length windows, children's independent access to hand washing, toilets and outdoor space. The space also includes changing facilities and a flexible room which can be used as a parents room.

“In order to maximise the benefit of existing early childhood centres, the design for three new extensions to accommodate two year olds had the same design brief. Important features of the design included a parents room or space, full length windows with a window seat, direct access to outdoor play areas, ease of access to hand washing and toilet facilities, and a changing facility. The sensitively thought out environment uses natural materials which provide sensory experiences for children both inside and outside.”

Janie Allen, Strategic Education Manager (Early Intervention)

Use of Modular/ Off Site Construction

Modular/Off site manufacturing of buildings was used extensively in the past for the provision of houses and industrial buildings. However, a perception surrounding the use of modular buildings developed, in part due to a documentary made in 1983 by World in Action, which "alleged timber frame construction could not produce houses that would last, citing rot in the frames of nine-year-old homes on a Cornwall estate." [23] These claims have now been widely discredited, but the fact that many prefabricated buildings were built as temporary structures compounded the view of them being of lower quality and status, which people did not think was appropriate for public buildings.

Lynburn Primary School Nursery, Dunfermline, Fife
Lynburn Primary School Nursery, Dunfermline, Fife

However due to the advancement of off-site manufacturing techniques and an increased focus on quality throughout the construction process, the use of off-site manufacturing is starting to gain momentum again.

Many local authorities have already used off-site manufacturing to develop their education estate, including Fife for Lynburn Nursery below, and the use of this, where appropriate, is something that would be recommended when planning early learning and childcare and after school care settings.

Lynburn Primary School Nursery, Dunfermline, Fife - construction
Lynburn Primary School Nursery, Dunfermline, Fife - construction

What is off-site construction?

Off-site construction involves assembling complete buildings or modules that have built in a specialised factory under controlled conditions. The modules can be fully fitted with electrics, plumbing, heating and internal finishes before being transported to the building site and connected, to form the building. Modules can be connected side-by-side and end-to-end, as well as in multiple storeys, to create buildings of any size, shape or configuration. There is also the possibility to add/remove parts from the modules as and when required throughout the life of the building.

As such there are many perceived benefits of modular/off site manufacturing which have been summarised on next page. For a more comprehensive review of some of the benefits please refer to the HSE overview on Offsite Production in the UK Construction Industry. [24]

Benefits of off-site construction

  • Shorter build times - although time in the factory will be incurred the time actually on-site is greatly reduced using off-site manufacturing techniques;
  • Assured quality - as the product is built in a controlled environment it can lead to a better quality of product with minimal snags. Products must meet strict quality assurance before they leave the factory with some modular manufacturers applying ISO 9001 certification for its quality-management systems. The environment for the workforce is also enhanced which can reduce the risk of accidents;
  • Minimal disruption - factory-based construction minimises time on site, meaning less noise and disruption to neighbouring businesses/residents, as well as a cleaner, safer, less congested site;
  • Cost and time certainty - factory-built projects are not subject to weather-related delays or site-based skills shortages, so buildings can be completed on time and budget as well as providing job opportunities in areas where there is not a huge amount of traditional construction being undertaken;
  • Future flexibility - modular buildings have the capacity to be expanded, reduced, reconfigured or even relocated to meet the changing requirements of the service;
  • Reduced waste - off-site construction can generate up to 70% less waste than traditional on-site building methods due to the virtual elimination of waste board materials and insulation. [25]

Think About

  • What are the benefits to the provider of using offsite manufacturing in this case - will these be realised?
  • Can the use of modular be used to reduce construction time whilst increasing quality?
  • Will the space being designed and constructed provide the quality environment that is desired?

Contact

Email: Jeff Maguire, jeff.maguire@gov.scot

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG